President Obama on Thursday ordered intelligence agencies to streamline and intensify their efforts to investigate terrorism threats, after releasing a report outlining how the system failed to prevent a man with known terrorist ties from boarding a U.S.-bound airliner on Christmas Day carrying explosives. Obama said Americans could rest assured that the government — by moving to share information faster, speed up installation of better airport scanners, and revoke suspected terrorists' visas — is reacting quickly to patch holes in the system, and that fighting terrorism is a top priority for his administration. "We are at war," he said. Obama declined to blame any particular agency, saying, "Ultimately, the buck stops with me." Will Obama's new anti-terror push make Americans safer? (Watch a CBS report about Obama's efforts to fight terrorism)
Obama is clearly mad, which is good: Christmas Day 2009 may have been "the same kind of wake-up call for Barack Obama that Sept. 11, 2001, had been for George W. Bush," says David Broder in The Washington Post. Both presidents had plenty of warnings about terrorist attacks, and both were "caught off guard." Obama appears so mad about these intelligence "screw-ups" that the days of his "benign leadership" in the terrorism war may be over.
"Failed Christmas bomb plot will likely alter Obama's agenda"
This will help — if Obama means it: Barack Obama's sounded a lot like Dick Cheney in this "all-business" address, says Ed Morrissey in Hot Air. Especially when he said "we are a nation at war, not a nation facing a crime wave." We'll all be safer if Obama has truly decided that he "will approach terrorists as unlawful combatants rather than criminals captured on the streets."
"Obama: 'The buck stops with me'"
The problem isn't a lack of will to fight terrorism — it's bureaucracy: We had all the clues needed to stop the Christmas Day underwear bomber, says Eugene Robinson in The Washington Post, but they "were buried under mountains of intelligence data." Undybomber suspect Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab was on a list of 550,000 known "terrorism related 'entities,'" which is almost like being "completely anonymous." Until we figure out how to narrow that list and separate terrorists from just plain jerks, we won't be much safer.
"A counterterrorism strategy that needs fewer dots"
If Obama doesn't fire people, the bureaucracy will screw up again: It's refreshing to hear Obama say the buck stops with him, says Andrew Sullivan in The Atlantic. George W. Bush certainly never said that. In fact, Obama seems to be doing everything he can in response to the Undybomber, except for one thing. If he doesn't fire the men, women, and intelligence institutions that "failed us," no one in the system will have any incentive to do better, and it's only a matter of time before they screw up again.
"Big Government as usual"
Don't give jihadists visas. It's that simple: Forget about streamlining the bureaucracy and installing more full-body scanners, says conservative blogger Michelle Malkin. "All the loud recriminations about who should have done what to stop the UndyBomber from boarding a plane to Detroit on Christmas Day miss a more fundamental point: Young, single, rootless foreign Muslim Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab should never, ever have received a temporary visa into our country in the first place. No visa, no plane ticket. No ticket, no passage to airline jihad."
"Why is the State Department getting an Undybomber pass?"
THE WEEK'S AUDIOPHILE PODCASTS: LISTEN SMARTER
- Here comes the Pentagon's newest space plane
- Everything you need to know about the voter ID controversy
- 43 TV shows to watch in 2014
- 3 horrific inaccuracies in Homeland's depiction of Islamabad
- How 1,000-year lifespans could remake the economy
- Extreme haunted houses: Inside Halloween's most terrifying new trend
- How to be the most productive person in your office — and still get home by 5:30 p.m.
- The simple trick to making better decisions in every aspect of life
- 6 things the happiest families all have in common
- The real story behind Deliver Us From Evil
Subscribe to the Week